When the Contribution Model Fails

I'm a big advocate of Open Source software. I feel that there really is no reason to close software source for the most part, and in general, closed libraries are very frustrating for me as a developer. However Open Source has it's flaws. The contribution model may be one of it's greatest strengths, but is also a big weakness.

What leads me to this "revelation" is an issue which i've been considering getting involved in and fixing. It's a Gimp enhancement request, which is probably the thing that annoys me most about Gimp at this moment. The "bug" is the lack of grouped layers in Gimp. Obviously, not having groups for layers can make a large document really convoluted, but more than that, i often find myself wanting to make modifications to multiple layers at once, such as opacity or translations. So what's the problem? Surely if they know about it and it's in their list, i should either do it myself or just be patient?

It's a 7 year old feature request.

I do understand that "implementing this feature is not trivial", but 7 years is not even close to acceptable. I realise they are suggesting it might make it to version 2.10, possibly in 2011 or 2012? Before the end of the world i'd hope. But seriously, in the commercial world, people lose their jobs for taking over a month to implement features like this. This is not easy to do, but in that time the KDE guys have written Krita from scratch, which may end up soon overtaking Gimp in features, and already has grouped layers. To me it almost seems like no one wants to take on the task.

What happened to open source being the cradle of innovation, instead of lagging behind commercial competitors? In Gimp, you have the Open Source stereotype. It's not as good as commercial counterparts, and lags several years behind in features. Some Open Source projects really seem to suffer from this. I'd suggest that X.org is another that just can't keep up with feature requests. Is it because of a poor codebase that people struggle to build on? Is it because of lack of interest in the project from outside devs? I'm not sure, but it really does bring down the quality of some big Open Source projects. 

On the other hand you have the entire KDE team as an example of real innovation. The KDE desktop is years ahead of any competitor, the codebase is beautifully clean, and they are churning out major features in just a few weeks. My example of Krita is a very pertinent one. It may turn out to be a big threat to Gimp in the long run, especially because it is now cross platform. The pace of development is clearly much faster, and it seems that it already has some of the modern features Gimp lacks.

In the end this does highlight some of the problems with the contribution model of Open Source software. Some projects fall behind, potentially become aged, while others forge ahead. How do you prevent a split like this? Should similar projects collaborate? Does that then remove an element of choice? The way i see it is that if it is needed enough, someone will do it. Maybe thats why Krita is moving so quickly, compensating for Gimp's inadequacies? It's probably also why Google are going to replace X.org in Chrome OS. After all sometimes its good to do some spring cleaning.


Opera does something right, again!

In KDE, i disabled the window border, and in Opera moved the tabs to the right... this is a browser experience i can certainly get used to!